Taking pause to speed up: The power of operational data within biotechs

Jennifer Heckman

Jennifer Heckman is a Guest Contributor. She is an expert developing innovative strategies to enable drug development.

My experience working in biotechs is consistent—often there’s a very aggressive approach to getting drugs through development, so treatments can get into the hands of patients as quickly as possible. And when life-changing drugs are in play, the urgency makes perfect sense.

But this urgency coupled with a rapidly expanding portfolio can actually lead to lost opportunities and, in turn, slow the pace at which the best drugs get to market. Consider the following common scenario.

As a biotech grows, so does the number of product teams. And it’s very common for product teams to work independently (often in silos); barreling ahead to move work forward. They don’t have the ability (or desire) to stop and look at everything across the portfolio. And from each product team’s perspective, they are producing great work with a focus on the finish line. But even with the best intentions, this narrow focus can cause the organization to lose sight of the broader information required for better decision making across the entire portfolio. In this scenario, there’s a real risk you move forward with something that is not successful, and not spend time on something that could have been successful: a lost opportunity.

Utilizing operational data to avoid lost opportunity

In this post, I will share a perspective on how operational data—shared freely—can lead to better decisions, more collaboration and, ultimately, delivering successful products. Further, I’ll show how and when you should pause to make go/no go decisions to avoid lost opportunities.

My philosophy is that there is no need for a lot of secrets internally within an organization. Making sure the right people have the right data and information at their fingertips to drive decisions is not only critical to keeping the process moving, but also critical to avoiding lost opportunities. Obviously, there's sensitivity around patient data and proprietary information about the development of a compound, but operational data shouldn't be kept hidden from anybody. I think it is best to be shared quite broadly.

Transparency via Quarterly Portfolio Reviews

Transparency of operational data provides tremendous benefits. It’s important to have this information available—and not just have it–-but use it to evaluate risks and opportunities.

An effective way to utilize operational data is through quarterly portfolio reviews. The main goal of the review is to take pause and consider the entire portfolio of work. It’s not a deep dive into efficacy data, but a look into all compounds within the portfolio in terms of timelines and project plan progression. Operational data is reviewed to answer important questions:

Where are we on our trajectory?

Are we hitting our business objectives across all studies?

Where are we are spending money and resources on top of our timelines?  

For efficiency and respect of peoples’ schedules, it’s important to clearly define your objectives and assemble a central group. Since functional leads have a clear understanding of what is happening with their staff, they are critical contributors. The group is responsible for pulling all the data, highlighting what is working well and where the pain points are, in sharing everything in an easy-to-read format.

Better decisions to achieve company goals

Full transparency of operational data during quarterly reviews enables everyone to understand where you are within your timelines and how you’re progressing across the project plan. In addition, collaboration occurs naturally—people who normally wouldn't have conversations start having them.

In the end, this birds-eye view enables better decision making in support of company goals. Operational data is used to uncover risk, avoid lost opportunities and foster collaboration among product teams, ultimately helping the organization deliver the best products to market quickly.